Sunak’s ‘dismal end’ and ‘bland’ Starmer: World media reacts to UK election

4 hours ago

grey-placeholder Sunak's 'dismal end' and 'bland' Starmer: World media reacts to UK electionad3cd940-3ac1-11ef-a044-9d4367d5b599.jpg Sunak's 'dismal end' and 'bland' Starmer: World media reacts to UK electionBBC

By BBC Monitoring and Matthew Davis

The Conservatives have emerged with “broken bones” from the UK election after Rishi Sunak’s “dismal end” – but the big question for some in the international media is whether the “bland, even boring” Keir Starmer can clean up the UK’s “mess”.

Labour’s landslide victory is being digested by commentators all over the world, many dissecting what the results mean for relations with the UK – as well as for the future of the Conservative Party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

The rise of Reform UK also generates many international column inches of coverage, especially in Europe where it didn’t go unnoticed that its leader, the arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage, became an MP for the first time.

Europe: Centre-left success bucks a trend

For Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the results mean “the British [have] had a burden lifted from their shoulders”, but any renewed stability in the UK is seen as fragile.

Voters “were primarily concerned with getting rid of the Conservatives,” the paper says, adding that “Labour has a stable majority, but also problems within the party”.

German business daily Handelsblatt says the British election result “opens up the opportunity to correct Brexit”.

“Now is the time to correct one of the biggest mistakes in British politics. A security pact with the EU can only be the beginning,” the paper said.

Mr Farage’s success attracted a lot of attention. German Tabloid Bild dubbed it an “election earthquake”, albeit one for which the paper says Labour can be thankful, seeing that Reform took many votes from the Conservatives.

French media largely hails Labour’s victory, also noting the election of Nigel Farage. Le Figaro says that despite the Reform party leader’s success in Clacton, “the British people have overwhelmingly chosen a moderate centre-left leader”.

According to Le Monde, the UK’s return to the centre-left is “striking, especially seen from France, where the far right has the wind in its sails on the eve of the second round of the legislative elections”.

Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera says of the Conservative defeat: “The party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher emerges from this election with broken bones: it will take years to recover. Has the right-wing wind that blows across the continent stopped at the English Channel? Obviously not… If the person in charge disappoints, he is replaced.”

Conservative Italian daily Il Giornale hopes for a return to stability in the UK, calling Prime Minster Sir Keir Starmer “a reassuring institutional alternative”.

But for Poland’s national broadcaster TVP, Mr Starmer is seen as “a bit bland, even boring”. But fortunately for him, the broadcaster says, “previous leaders of the Conservative Party achieved much worse results”.

In Hungary, the press there noted two issues: “Unchanged support for Ukraine”, according to pro-government paper Magyar Nemzet; and Hungarians in the UK hoping for “a more relaxed stance on visa rules and work permits,” said the left-wing paper Telex.

US sees ‘frustrated’ voters plump for ‘dull competence’

The New York Times casts Labour’s victory as “a seismic moment in the UK’s politics, returning to power a party that just five years ago suffered its most crushing defeat since the 1930s”.

But it also notes the low voter turnout, reporting only about 60% of those eligible cast ballots.

“The low figure speaks to the mood of an electorate that seemed frustrated with the last government but hardly full of optimism about the next one. It also pointed to the challenge facing the new Labour government, which will have to work fast if it wants to restore disillusioned voters’ faith in mainstream politics,” the Times says.

For ABC News, Rishi Sunak’s campaign to remain Britain’s prime minister showed a lack of political touch.

“Predecessors such as Tony Blair and Boris Johnson were more politically astute and able to connect with voters.” As for Mr Sunak, he defied political advice by calling the election in May — “with Conservative support dwindling steadily amid an economic slump, ethics scandals and a revolving door of leaders over the last two years,” the broadcaster said.

Meanwhile, a headline in the Wall Street Journal read: “The UK elects a no-drama prime minister after years of post-Brexit chaos.”

“Eight years after the UK voted to leave the European Union and entered an era of political and economic turmoil, voters have asked Keir Starmer to steady the entire country with his brand of dull competence,” the paper said.

India: ‘Dismal end’ for Sunak

By Rupsha Mukherjee

Most TV channels and news sites in India focused on Rishi Sunak conceding defeat.

“British Indians Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman win seats, but apologise for poor Tory performance,” The Times of India noted.

The Wire website called it “a dismal end to his 20 months as head of government”.

Everything Sunak tried during the campaign “really failed”, Times Now TV added. “Everyone thought the Conservatives had a plan but now all those plans have fallen flat.”

But the Labour win “is also a triumph for India”, one news site thought, suggesting that Sir Keir Starmer would seek better relations with Delhi.

China: ‘Can Starmer clean up UK’s mess?’

By Kerry Allen, BBC Monitoring China team

China’s only official statement so far has been via its foreign ministry, which said China “had noticed the results of the British election” and “we hope to get Sino-UK relations along the right track”.

Despite these hopes, state media outlets were not overly optimistic.

“With six prime ministers in eight years, can Starmer clean up the UK’s mess?” asked broadcaster CCTV.

Given the next government faces “the most challenging issues in 70 years”, “public dissatisfaction” might soon follow, mused The Paper.

The Global Times, however, published a positive profile of the prime minister-to-be, saying Sir Keir was “not the inflammatory politician that people imagine”, and that media impressions of him are that he is “conscientious, good at management, and a little dull”.

China can hope for a more pragmatic relationship with the UK, the paper said.

Russia: No change in policy expected

By Anastasia Bazenkova and Yuriy Martynenko

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Russia’s state-controlled TV channels have presented the UK election result as a “miserable failure” and a “crushing defeat” for the Conservative party and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

State channel Rossiya 1 said that Brexit was the only achievement of 14 years of Conservative rule and Channel One objected to how Russia had been cast in the election in the UK, which has helped rally Western opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“This election, like politics in general in Britain in recent years, just can’t manage without an enemy figure in the form of Russia,” the channel said.

Outlets and commentators in both Russia and Ukraine don’t expect the election to change UK policies toward Russia.

“For Moscow [Keir Starmer’s] arrival in power changes nothing, since he takes anti-Russian positions and supports continued backing for Ukraine,” said NTV, another leading Russian channel.

Pro-government paper Izvestiya thought anyway that: “Political changes in Europe show that for the electorate, internal issues are becoming much more important than Ukraine.”

In Ukraine, the country’s national wartime news service Suspilne thought the same. “For the first time in 14 years, power will change hands in the UK, but this will not have an impact on support for Ukraine,” the news service said.

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